Walter said she spoke with Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback and did agree with Wagner that several board members did seem surprised.
"I think the way the board of ed found out about it was not the most appropriate, to be perfectly honest with you," Walter said.
Councilman Bill Martin, however, said the issue is not one that just came out during winter break but had been discussed for some time. He said an SRO had been added in middle schools halfway through the last school year and been transferred to Meadowvale Elementary to see how it would work.
Unfortunately, he said, that officer had to be transferred back to the middle school because of "manpower allocations."
Martin, an eighth-grade teacher, also said SRO's serve a much broader purpose "besides the occasional shootout."
He said middle schools have changed and have children of vastly different backgrounds.
"You've got kids that have a little bracelet because they're still on house arrest sitting next to kids who still believe in Santa Claus," Martin said.
"Bullying is always a factor. You can have all the feel-good campaigns you want," he said. "I have seen kids go bonkers and run the hallway with butane and lighters, screaming, and the SRO is there to get them."
"We're not trying to put an officer in our schools like it's the Wild West. They're not going to walk in there with an M-14 rifle and scare the kids," he said, adding that the city already has an SRO program and is just asking for two more.
"We are a sovereign city, we tax our own citizens, they expect this from us. I urge my council members to support this," he said.
Councilman David Glenn, who has also been active in schools, was not at the meeting but Dougherty read an e-mail on his behalf that strongly supported the amendment.
"This is without a doubt a defining moment for the citizens of Havre de Grace," Glenn said in the letter. "As in any occupation, the one thing you don't want to compromise is safety."
Martin said he thinks Congress will start having serious dialogue about having more SRO's in schools.
"I think it's where the future's heading, personally. I think within the next decade, all schools will have them," he said. "Years ago, we didn't have school nurses. I'm sure people thought back then, how do we afford a nurse at every school? But we do. We afford them because we have to."
"My kids' safety, school nurses and good teachers: it's the biggest bargain we have in America," he said.
Several residents had differing opinions on the amendment.
Hollee Sifford, of Chapel Heights Drive, said she is a mother and has seen an SRO in action.
"He was very effective and he set the precedent for every single SRO who is in this town," she said. "I don't really think arguing over the cost is effective."
"At the end of the day, it's the parents that want to see them [children] come home and teachers who want to teach them," she said.
Another resident, on Market Street, noted Columbine High had a full-time SRO who was unable to stop the shootings.
Dougherty replied that the job description of the SRO has changed since then, and now an SRO is the first line of defense.
Joe Kochenderfer, of Tydings Road, wondered about the difference between SROs and school guards and questioned whether the amendment was precipitated by the Newton shooting.
"It's something that has been in the planning stages for quite some time," Dougherty replied.
Also at the meeting, Lynn Jurkowski was sworn in as planning commission member.
VFW Vice Commander Mary Wilson, Quartermaster Craig Reeling; Chaplain Steve Koester and Adjutant Judge Advocate Russ Levey were among those to receive recognitions.
The council also went into closed session to discuss property acquisition and legal matters.